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Environmental variances for church approved, despite lack of tree survey

Monday, November 7, 2016 by Joseph Caterine

The Environmental Commission approved a list of variance requests for the Iglesia Camino del Rey Church during its Nov. 4 meeting, despite the fact that there was no tree survey for review.

The new church with parking will cover 10,000 square feet on a 7.7 acre lot in east Austin. But, in order to complete that construction, Moncada Enterprises LLC was seeking variances to allow construction of a driveway and parking area on slopes greater than 15 percent and to allow cut and fill beyond what is normally permitted.

During the public hearing, Commissioner Peggy Maceo asked if a tree survey of the site had been conducted.

Pamela Abee-Taulli from the Development Services Department apologized for not having it as part of the presentation. “The applicant is providing for tree mitigation,” she said. “There’s only one heritage tree, which is being worked into the design, and no preservation trees.”

Phil Moncada, representing the applicant, said that the project would not significantly impact the tree diversity or volume in the area. “Any of the trees that were removed were smaller trees,” he said. “We have numerous species.”

Commissioner Andrew Creel pointed out that the applicant was not requesting a tree-related variance.

“I know that,” Maceo said. “But it’s nice to have that information. We have a lot of tree regulations, and we want to make sure they’re being followed.”

“I agree,” Chair Marisa Perales said. “I think it would be helpful to have this information, because it could help inform staff conditions.”

Abee-Taulli clarified that an evaluation of the trees had been conducted. “I am the one who reviews the mitigation for the trees, and one of the things I check for is the preservation requirements,” she said.

Commissioner Hank Smith motioned to approve the request for recommendation with staff conditions, and Commissioner Pam Thompson seconded. The motion passed unanimously, with Commissioner Linda Guerrero absent.

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